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‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ review

By on Mar 30, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

A Good Day To Die Hard is the fifth film in Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise…and the worst out of the lot. This film is all about father-son bonding, supposedly, between John McLane and his long-lost son (whom we’ve hardly ever heard about in the previous films) and suffers the consequences of deviating from the standard McLane plot. John McLane’s USP is that he’s a good cop in the wrong place at the wrong time: and this is the first rule that A Good Day… violates. McLane purposely flies to Russia to supposedly bust out his son from prison. The screenwriting is mind-bogglingly sloppy, featuring a singing cab driver in Moscow and Bruce Willis wandering clueless outside a courthouse like a septuagenarian suffering from dementia. Probably not far off the mark given his character’s age. One of the standout features of any Die Hard film are the villains. Every single villain in the franchise has had character, some pizzazz. The fifth is sorely lacking in this respect as for much of its running time the villains are standard henchmen who don’t even chart that high on the scale of diabolicalness, and when the final reveal comes on who the real villain is, it’s utterly predictable not to mention ludicrous what the evil plan is. Even Live Free Or Die Hard‘s villain – perhaps the one with the most ludicrous plan so far – was genuinely menacing. A Good Day‘s villain is a guy who seems to be dying from common cold. Despite all the jumping-onto-F35 action sequences, I actually quite liked Die Hard 4.0. Instead, you have Bruce Willis screaming like a little girl at middle-aged henchmen with atrocious Russian accents. It makes me sad thinking that Hollywood will probably continue making Die Hard sequels, all worse than the previous ones, with Bruce Willis chugging along a wheelchair perhaps. What a sad end for an everyday superhero. Rating: 1.5 /...

‘Argo’ film review

By on Mar 10, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Argo is an oddly unsatisfactory film for an Oscar winner. Directed by – and starring, in the lead role – Ben Affleck, it’s based on the real life story of how the CIA smuggled out a group of American embassy staffers from Tehran in the 70s under the guise of a Canadian film crew scouting for locations for a science fiction film. The film is based on an article that Wired magazine did on the incident. The political back story behind the events leading up to the siege of the embassy staffers in itself is fascinating, and something that I’d watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel about many years ago. Sadly, this bastardised Hollywood version lacks in the kind of genuine suspense that both the magazine article and the documentary had. Where I feel Argo fails is that it tries too hard to add suspense to an already-tense plot by resorting to gimmickry of adding imminent danger, and in doing so hurts the story adding elements that are laughably and obviously fake. My other gripe is that although there are scenes where the dialogue is darkly comic, the effect is spoiled by the fact that almost all the money-shot quotes of the film were already revealed in the trailer for the film, thus reducing their comic impact when you hear it back on-screen. Perhaps my perception of Argo was clouded by my prior knowledge of the incidents in the film. I can imagine that for someone who isn’t in the same position, Argo could be a smart, funny, and dramatic piece of work that is quite unlike the sort you would typically expect from Hollywood. Rating: 3.5 /...

‘Mysterious Skin’ film review

By on Feb 15, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Directed by Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin traces parallel plots of Neil McCormick (Gordon-Levitt) in his life a teenage male prostitute, and Brian Lackey (Brady Corbet) on his obsession with alien abductions – both of whom went to the same school. The supporting cast consists of Neil’s neglectful mother (Elizabeth Shue, in a very understated role); Eric (Jeff Licon), Neil’s gay lover, and Neil’s childhood friend Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg) who adds more sexual tension to the plot. Over time, Brian increasingly comes to think that Neil is the key to solving the mystery behind his alien abduction story. The film is intense at times – it was rated NC-17 in the US, the highest censorship rating a film can get there – due to its graphic depictions of homosexual sex, and the underlying premise of how the stories of the two characters hinge around aliens may at first sound bizarre, but at its core the film’s finale tells a very tragic story on a serious issue (without giving too much away). Rating: 4 /...

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ disappoints despite having solid material to work with

By on Feb 7, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Zero Dark Thirty is a curious film that tries to walk a fine line between being a documentary and an action film. Much has been written about the controversial nature of the film for its depiction of torture techniques. Setting that aside and judging the film based purely on its artistic merit, I found it coming up short. The first half of the film is a major drag; the plot progresses slowly and I found myself disinterested in the machinations that it went through in representing the backstory of how Osama bin Laden was tracked down. Despite devoting a lot of screen time, the film hardly spends any time on meaningful character development or in making any kind of cogent political arguments. Dan (Jason Clarke), the only slightly-interesting character, is taken out of rotation early on and the rest is spent on making Maya (Jessica Chastain) appear “spunky” by dropping expletives in a meeting with top CIA brass. Mark Strong’s acting talent is wasted by giving him a bit role in the film. The pace picks up with the last quarter of the film devoted to the actual military operation – ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ – which took down Osama bin Laden. It is here that Kathryn Bigelow’s direction works its magic in portraying the tension of the soldiers in an understated manner; along the lines of the iconically-understated manner in which she portrayed the sniper ambush in The Hurt Locker. The dialogue in one particular scene – where a Black Hawk helicopter crashes at the insertion LZ – is sure to remind viewers of Black Hawk Down. I was glad that the focus was kept on the teams in battle rather than relying of the crutch of cutting back to situation room far away with satellite imagery to explain the battlefield narrative as many war films tend to do. Zero Dark Thirty feels like a film where Bigelow is relying on the goodwill of The Hurt Locker to score points with critics and the audience. I couldn’t help comparing Zero Dark Thirty to other genre films such as Syriana and Body of Lies that do a better job (in my opinion) of character development while keeping the pace consistently snappy. In a word: disappointed. Rating: 2.5 /...

11:14 (2003)

By on Feb 2, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

11:14 is an indie thriller from director Greg Marcks starring an ensemble cast of quite a few Hollywood heavyweights – Henry Thomas, Patrick Swayze, Hilary Swank – as a well as a few lesser-known actors such as Rachel Leigh Cook and Blake Heron. It is a film of the ‘intertwined storyline’ kind à la ‘Crash’ and ‘Babel‘, but in a tighter timeframe. It follows the characters of our ensemble cast on one night in a small American town as a series of events unfold: many people get hit by a car, another dies while having sex in a graveyard, a fake robbery with real shootings is attempted at a convenience store, someone’s dick gets chopped off, a girl tries to extort money under the pretence of getting an abortion. Unbeknownst to the characters, their destinies are all inter-linked with each other, and the beauty of this film’s screenwriting is how the stories all converge at a single moment in time – 11:14pm. The soundtrack – done by Clint Mansell, one of my favourite film composers – adds its own spice to the proceedings. 11:14 is a thrilling film with touches of dark humour and brilliant execution. Rating: 4.5 /...